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Restoration of a Relict Population of Gopher Tortoises Through Translocation of Waif Animals


January 2017 - April 2019


The gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) has declined over most of its range and is currently a candidate for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Active conservation management is being employed, including the translocation of “waif” tortoises (animals temporarily in human custody that cannot be returned to the point of origin in the wild) in some efforts to augment existing populations. The efficacy of translocating waif animals for the purpose of population augmentation is unknown, both with respect to the demographic performance of released tortoises and the health of the population into which they are released. This research, conducted at an isolated site on the periphery of the range, will provide needed information on the benefits and risks of translocating waif tortoises. This research is conducted in collaboration with the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. This research will be used by conservation agencies and their partners to weigh the risks of using waif animals for reintroduction stock for the augmentation of existing populations.

Research Products and Activities


  • McKee, R., K. Buhlmann, W. Dillman, B. Kesler, C. Moore, and T. Tuberville. 2017. An island of misfit tortoises: Using waif animals to recover populations on the brink. 39th Annual Gopher Tortoise Council Meeting, 13-15 October 2017, Edgefield, SC.
  • McKee, R., K. Buhlmann, W. Dillman, B. Kesler, C. T. Moore, and T. D. Tuberville. 2018. Waif tortoise health following translocation. Presentation at 2018 Annual Southeast Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, 22-25 February 2018, Helen, GA.
  • McKee, R., K. Buhlmann, J. Dillman, J. Kesler, C. Moore, N. Stacy, and T. Tuberville. 2018. An island of misfit tortoises: health and survival of waif gopher tortoises following translocation. Integrative Conservation Conference, 20-22 September 2018, Athens, GA.
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Current Staff

Federal Staff: 95

Masters Students: 239

Phd Students: 142

Post Docs: 53

University Staff: 240

5 Year Summary

Students graduated: 701

Scientific Publications: 1936

Presentations: 4260



  • Clinton MooreCo-Principal Investigator
  • Tracey TubervillePrincipal Investigator
  • Rebecca McKeeStudent

Funding Agencies

  • University of Georgia, Savannah River Ecology Laboratory


Cooperative Research Units Program Headquarters Cooperators

  1. U.S. Geological Survey